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My first report out of Colombia !!!!

Estimados senores:

I arrived a thursday evening, 16/3 1995, and started by paying customs for some company material I was carrying. I spent all the money I had, but I needed som more from the guys waiting to pick me up. Julian D, from the office, drove me to an apartment, gave me the keys and said he would pick me up at 7.30 next morning. Luckyly I had my alarm clock with me. It is a nice apartment. Top floor with a two bedrooms and a study. That means that there is an extra room for anybody passign by. Furthermore, a living room, smallish kitchen, and a very small room with laundry mashine.

I slept well. That is however not always so since Bogota is situated over 2600 meters above see level. The air is thinner and after about six months you should be accustomed. However, the air is not so clean and it is good that the rain comes everynow and then to clean the air.
I noticed the thin air when I opened my after shave lotion bottle and the air slipt out.... Also, when you pour a glass of beer, the foam starts building very fast and much more than I am used to. The beer is good though.

I was picked up at 7.30 on my first day and we went to work. I have been very busy trying to remember streets and places, which is tiresome. To give a little idea about what it is like, I will describe how to arrive to the office with a car.
You give a white card to a guard, who gives you a similar card, but blue, back,while another guard is looking under the car with a mirror. You park in the designated place and head for the elevator. The elvator only runs between the parking floors and ground floor. It is operated by a guard or a girl sitting on a chair pushing the buttons. I cross the ground floor inside the entrance. Other people arriving by foot, are screen and identified or given a guest card. Remember, this is not an ericsson building....
I press the button for floor one and luckily, like in china, their is a button for *closing* the doors as well. Arriving from the elevator there is a glass door, with a reception lady inside. You need a card for that, which I havent received yet. I smile and look lost and the she or he opens the door. Then there is a door to her immidiate left which she also opens for me. I have arrived to my office.
At first I felt a little trapped, but it disappears quickly. The floor is organised by big screens, to create small open offices. The screen are so that only tall swedes are able to look above and beyond them.

During my first friday, I received a car, an office, a computer and some money. If it seems organised, forget it. I believe it was only through hard work (and mostly luck) I got installed like that.

The next day, my first weekend, I woke up earlish. I had a car, some money and a place to stay. Now all I needed was some food! When I arrived on thursday we saw a shopping place fore food. It was in Calle, street, 85. I found it and it is really good. It is like ICA but with a larger fruit and vegetables area. Well, by now the basic needs where fulfilled.
I had a small look around the neighbor*hood* to see what is was like. I did not dare making larger excursions. I read The firm the rest of the day. I tried to whatch TV but it is difficult to following the dialogue in the awful telenovelas or TV/series they have.

I called Julian D from the office, and he invited me for sunday. I managed to drive to his house with a map and a compass. He and his wife Gloria with the two children have worked in Sweden and can speak swedish. We did however try to only speak spanish. Their children, 10 and 7, go to a english speaking school and are excellent in english. They had lots of fun teasing me. We all went to have paella at a local restaurant and also went shopping. It was a nice day and I came home at around 9.

About sickness. Although I have a health card whitch guarantees me a hospital if needed, I was recommended to join some localsystem. I hope I am covered now.
The water in Colombia is not healthy, at least that is what I have been told. In Bogota however they say it is no problem... So I shower, wash the dishes, brush my teeth in the local water. I make food and tea with pure water, agua pura. I hope that is ok!

I have been asking around trying to understand the Colombians. They are very friendly, happy and they love to party and dance. Maybe it is a protection, because if they did not enjoy themselves, they would feel miserable about the situation, with the traffic and the violence. Last weekend I went out with some friends from work to a popular place down town, zona rosa. e had really fun, drinking beer and dancing salsa and merengue. The best beer is called club colombia, but there is a new and popular one called Leona. It is suppoesed to be sweater....
About the dancing. It is like the language. I am still learning.

Getting home:
I drive the Carrera 7 or septima from work and turn of at street 74 where my building is. it takes about 15 minutes or up to 60 depending on the traffic.
I drive up the small entrance and wait. The portero opens the garage door and I drive in to my parking place. There are two guys working 12 hours shifts only to open the garage or the front door all day and night. The house is a brick building, really nice, not older than a couple of years, I think. I take the left elevator to the eights or top floor, which is an even number. The other elevator only goes to uneven floors. Even the elevators are nice with nice touch buttons. My room number is 801. I open the top lock first and then door handle with a nother key. The door cannot be opend without a key. I am home.

When I got home on from work on friday 17th I noticed something very strange. My bed was made and the dishes had been cleaned. My dirty clothes, which I carefully placed on the floor in the bedroom, were gone and I found them on the washing mashine. All my luggage had been rearranged and placed in one of the rooms. It looked really neat. I thought, this is great, someone is cleaning my flat and fixing things. I did not know if it was temporary or on a permanent basis. I decided to test a little the limits to this service.
I bought some washing powder, I saw on the commercials on the TV during the weekend. And on monday my washing was done, when I came back. I even found some shirts ironed! I have know, through arefully investigation found out that the service provided is included and she is called Sandra. I have never seen her. I only have to leave a note if their is anything I want. I will tell her to take some fruit if she wants. My next major project is to get cable TV with english speaking programs. I am already sick and tired of the three Columbian programs.

Actually, I have to work sometimes as well. This is only slowly starting as I have to arrange bank connections, identity cards, say hello to everyone, meetings, checking on the lift with my private things, which have not arrived yet. I am sending a private lift and also soem things from my office. The import responsible, did not belive I could receive the office part separate. So it was only in the very last minute I stopped the lift and Ericsson send the material to the transport guys and it has now left Sweden...

I am assistent to the Project responsible in Colombia. He and my 12 collegues receives contracts and handles them together with the customer. With the reorganisation, Colombia is not supported anymore by a department in Sweden. That means that we shall handle all the contacts with ordering and factories, forecast, shipments etc directly with Sweden. My job is to organize the work according to established project handling methods as well as teach them how to communicate with Sweden. I will first learn about what and how they are doing now, before recommending changes. I hope I am able to learn spanish well enough during that period.

The weather suits me perfect. It is mostly half sunny half cloudy. The temperature is just above 20 to 28, depending on the clouds. In the evenings it gets colder and at 20.00 it could be between 12 to 16 degrees. It will start raining a lot in april... The best months are december and january when it is hotter.. All in all, I think there is a great chance I might like it here for a while.

My address: Calle 74, No 5 - 19, Apto. 801, Bogota, Colombia
Telephone home 57 1 345 0881,
office 57 1 288 6800 / 387 (tres,ocho,siete) or
fax 57 1 287 84 82

Everybody is welcome to drop by. Just give me a ring or a beep.
The very best

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Last updated: 1 SEP 1996 by Johan Stjernberg.
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